Decisions Ahead

The additional five-game schedule means the Bears have an opportunity to play four contests before having to make a cut. However, 32 players will need to be let go over the next nine days.

There are some easy decisions, such as trimming the number of kickers and punters on the roster down to one at each position. Despite not punting in the preseason because of a calf injury, Brad Maynard has never been in jeopardy of losing his job. Doug Brien has been shaky on his kickoffs, but he connected on a 50-yard field goal and the Bears brought him to Chicago to put the ball through the uprights.

Injuries at safety have eliminated choices. Bobby Gray and Cameron Worrell will be placed on Injured Reserve, but would have had a hard time making the roster ahead of Todd Johnson and rookie Chris Harris.

There is a similar scenario at linebacker. Joe Odom and Marcus Reese were the top reserves heading to Bourbonnais. Reese is done for the year with a shoulder separation. LeVar Woods and Jeremy Cain are ahead of Leon Joe and Derrick Ballard in the battle to make the final roster. Rod Wilson could end up on the practice squad, as he continues to learn the position at the NFL level.

The toughest decision may come at defensive tackle. There are locks like Tommie Harris, Ian Scott and Tank Johnson. Although Alfonso Boone is the oldest member of the group at 29, he's a good run defender and has put together a solid preseason. Darrell Campbell is coming off a major knee injury that meant he went from being a potential second round in 2004 to going undrafted. With limited exposure since the injury, there may be a chance the Bears could sneak him onto the practice squad.

There are currently six quarterbacks with the club, while that number might stay at four with the injury to Rex Grossman, the days of Ryan Dinwiddie and most likely Kurt Kittner are numbered.

There is a logjam at receiver with nine currently on the roster. The number will likely be at five when the Bears open the season. Eddie Berlin is on a one-year deal with the team and a partially torn groin muscle will keep him out 6-8 more weeks, which means he will not survive the cut. Airese Currie has not practiced with the team since being drafted. He will be placed on IR and use his rookie season much like a redshirt year in college. J.J. Moses was brought in solely as a kick returner and has not impressed thus far.

Mark Bradley has joined the rotation of Justin Gage and Bernard Berrian with the first team and all three are roster locks, no matter who starts Muhsin Muhammad. Bobby Wade earned the fifth receiver spot with his ability to be effective in the slot and wrapping up the punt return job with his 54-yard touchdown against the Colts. Carl Ford is tied for third on the team with five receptions through three games. He's also shown up on special teams coverage, but unless the Bears carry a sixth receiver he's on the outside looking in.

Desmond Clark has been handed the starting tight end job upon his return from an ankle sprain, in large part because no one at the position took advantage of his nearly three month absence. John Gilmore is a solid inline blocker and is second on the depth chart. A cast of characters is vying for the final spot. Dustin Lyman could have a tough time making it a sixth season in Chicago. Injuries have limited his reps and that has become an all too familiar story over the course of his career.

Gabe Reid, Darnell Sanders, Ron Johnson and John Owens are also being considered. Of the group, Sanders has had the most productive preseason with four receptions, all of which came against the Rams.

Marc Edwards went from being out of football to signing with the Bears two days before the start of training camp. A rash of injuries at fullback led to the signing and have allowed him to rise to the top of the depth chart. He's likely earned the starting job to open the season with Bryan Johnson continuing to be hampered by soreness in the foot he had off-season surgery on. Thump Belton worked with the first team early in camp before being sidelined with an ankle injury. While Jason McKie is recovering quicker than expected from a torn pectoral muscle, he's yet to be cleared to practice with the team. Antoineo Harris has worked at fullback, but at 217 pounds he's undersized to be a lead blocker.

Neither Marc Colombo nor Robert Droege has distinguished himself as the swing tackle. The Bears could keep Colombo and then hope Droege will pass waivers and could be placed on the practice squad. The scenario is plausible because Droege was an undrafted free agent that spent his rookie season on IR because of a knee injury.

Even though the cut down to 65 doesn't have to be made until 2 pm on Tuesday, it will likely come over the weekend. The deadline for the 53-man roster is Sept. 4th.


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